For people with autism spectrum disorders, a trip to the airport is often stressful, overwhelming, and sometimes downright frightening. But through an innovative, national ARC initiative called Wings for Autism®, people with autism spectrum disorders and other intellectual and developmental disabilities will have the chance to “rehearse” the airport experience before taking a trip.

On February 16, 2019—through a partnership between the Arc of Central Alabama, the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, and Southwest Airlines-Birmingham—Wings for Autism® takes flight at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport helping individuals with disabilities and their families acclimate to the flying experience. During the Wings for Autism® experience, families will practice entering the airport, go through the check-in process, go through security, and board a plane. The plane will taxi around the runway but not take off so that participants can experience what it feels like to be on a plane, with all the noises and motion.

Originated by the Charles River Center, a local chapter of The Arc, Wings for Autism® is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The program also gives airport, airline, Transportation Security Administration professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact, and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment. The event will be led and monitored by staff members from The Arc of Central Alabama.

Go to to register for Wings for Autism®. Two guests (over the age of 18) can accompany each participant. Participants should arrive at the airport at 4:30 p.m., and they will board the plane at 6:30 p.m. after going through check in and security. Due to limited space on the aircraft, only one guest may accompany the participant onto the plane.

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